After almost a month of touring, we decided to give ourselves a day off in a beautiful hotel. We are within walking distance of a local shopping area where we could repurchase the items that the Indian TSA took away from us at the airport. It also has a McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Dominos, and Subway where we will feast on the familiar, at least as familiar as the Indians can make it. The temperature is cool and the air is dry. That's what flying 600 miles north can accomplish. It feels great to be outside in the "fresh" air. The air quality problems that New Delhi has are easily viewable from our hotel window. Best not to breathe too deeply.
This also will give me a chance to share some things that we learned from Charles that I never found time to write about.
• We were surprised how many Christians there are in India, especially in the South were the Dutch and Portuguese got things going over 400 years ago. Christianity especially appeals to lower caste folks who were looking to escape their confinement at the bottom rung of society in the Hindu tradition.
• The idea of giving a dowry along with a daughter when it comes time to marry, statred out as an equality measure, since before that family wealth was only inherited by male heirs. With the dowry a women was able to take some of the wealth of her family with her into the future. However, dowries have caused nothing but problems, especially for poorer families. The birth rate for Indian males is considerably higher than for females since it has become possible to determine the gender of an unborn child. Gender based abortions are illegal, but they clearly happen all the time so that a father doesn't have to devote his working life to saving, saving, saving for his daughter's dowry and wedding ceremony. Brides usually live with the husband's family and the in-laws are known to give them constant grief over the size of the dowry and ask for more.
• Large quantities of gold are often part of the dowry. The bride wears tons of gold jewelry on her wedding day and then it is put in a strong box and rarely sees the light of day. The Indians are mad about gold and own 55% of the world's supply, despite the fact that overall this is not a wealthy country. Their frenzied approach to gold has contributed to driving the current price of gold sky high. A fellow traveler bought a gold ring here - 22 carat. Nothing less will do.
• Arranged marriages are still the norm. Even though Charles had a love marriage, he was clearly in favor of the arranged concept. He said that the divorce rate is much, much higher for the love marriages. One factor is that here the marriage is between the two families, not just the bride and groom. The parents look for a spouse that is a good match when it comes to objective criteria such as class, education, religion, profession. Perhaps because people in love often overlook those factors that can cause major problems later, this system works for them. Every Sunday a special matrimonials section of the paper runs ads that parents have placed looking for a suitable match. Some list the exact moment when they were born to aid the astrologers in finding an auspicious match. They were quite funny to read:
Punjab simple homely girl 32/5'3", Delhi based family seeks service/business boy. Simple marriage.
Proposal Invited from well Educated Boy with Business/Corporate/Professional Background for Post Graduate Girl. Symbiosis 5'1", 30 years, Working in Media MNC, Strong Family Values, Belonging to Delhi Arora Family, Having Industry in Manesar Living in Gurgan.
Suitable match for Slim, Beautiful, 31 yrs. 5'4", convent educated girl from cultured business Punjabi family in South Delhi. Prof. Qlfd. Boy working in MNC/well settled in Business with similar family background from India/Singapore/Dubai, etc. may mail profile with photo (must) to: (email address)
A very affluent and reputed very well known Jat Hindu family of high repute involved in various multifaceted business interests, seeks a suitable match for their extremely talented 26 year old daughter. Graduated from the London School of Economics UK. She is widely traveled, intelligent, and family oriented currently involved in family business. The groom must be well educated, smart, progressive, and very well settled with promising future living in any metro city from a respectable and established industrialist/business/family.